Monday, June 18, 2007

I was writing a rather wrenching chapter today that included a slave auction. My WIP is set in 1817 Florida. It led me to re-read most of Kenneth Stamp's The Peculiar Institution, one of the textbooks I wisely held onto from undergraduate school 30 years ago. I also worked through my notes on Florida history, and Georgia history.

In the scene today, the hero, who's from Georgia, explains to the heroine why he can't free his family's slaves. It was illegal to do so. I cannot stand reading historical romance where the heroine inherits her grandfather's antebellum plantation in Georgia or South Carolina, hops on a boat from England, and the first thing she does when she gets here is free all those slaves and offer a good pension plan.

Slavery was this country's great evil (we'll talk about the Indians another time) and its effects are still being felt through our society today. To ignore the reality of it so we can pretty up our characters and make them more palatable to modern readers does the reader a disservice, in my opinion, and means we're writing fantasy, not historical fiction.

That's all. My writing makes me angry, so I'm venting here. One of the reasons I like having a blog.


Anonymous said...

I admire the fact that you are attempting to address the reality of history in a romance novel instead of ignoring whatever isn't pretty enough. Good luck.

Darlene said...

Thanks! Beieve me, it's not easy. People expect certain things from their heroes and heroines in romance novels, and sometimes honesty doesn't go over so well.

But the first critic I have to listen to is myself, and I can't live with deviating that far from reality. It's one thing if I put a particular pirate in Fernandina in May 1817 instead of September 1817, it's another to mess with history on such a large scale.

Oh, and when I do tweak the timeline or the geography, I always try to add a note saying so at the beginning or end of the novel.

Thanks for commenting!